Thursday, September 26, 2013

Precision Tea Steeping in Indianapolis

“This is your kind of place,” my husband said, “the tea list is longer than the food menu.”  While visiting Indianapolis for a wedding, we had a cup a tea at Tulip Noir, a breakfast and lunch café that Indianapolis's Examiner dubbed an “Indianapolis Tea Temple”[1] and that Indianapolis's Metromix rated as a best brunch spot.[2]
For me, it’s not Tulip Noir’s over 70 varieties of tea that makes it stand out. It’s not their creative blends like “I Dream of Maui” - a green tea with pineapple, mango and blue corn flower or “Almond Oolong” - an oolong with a taste of almonds, or even their “Sweet Peach” - a white tea with a crisp peach flavor. It’s not even its organic, gluten free, vegan and allergy-friendly food and beverages. It’s Tulip Noir’s precision in the steeping time of its teas that sets Tulip Noir apart. I simply had never seen a tea establishment give customers timers with their teas.
When you order tea at Tulip Noir in Indianapolis, you are never left to wonder when the brewing of your tea is done. Each tea order comes with its own hour glass timer matched to the ideal steeping time for the ordered tea. What makes the perfect cup of tea, according to Tulip Noir, is not just the quality of the tea leaves, but the timing of the leaf brewing process. This is why each customer is armed with a timer and the recommended steeping time for their particular tea.
My order of loose leaf black tea (a mix of caramel and lavender, called “Serenity”) arrived at my table in its own clear glass steeping cup along with a 5 minute hour glass timer. I could see the hot water and the tea leaves through the clear glass. “When the timer runs out,” the waitress told me, “your tea is ready.” Among the tables, I could see other tea drinkers had 3, 5, or 7 minute hour glass timers at the ready.
I was mesmerized by the steeping, I could smell the tea flavor strengthening and watch the color of the hot water gradually deepen into a beautiful coppery brown. When the last few grains of sand fell to the bottom of the hour glass, it was time to remove the strainer – this did prove to be a bit messy. But it was worth it to savor the steeping as well as the taste of the tea at its optimal flavor. Shouldn’t we all have hour glasses?
[1] September 12, 2010,

[2] September 12, 2010,

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